When planning your trip to the South, it’s important to research where you’re going. So we’ve compiled a list of the best books about Virginia and by Virginia authors to help you prepare. No matter whether you’re a resident looking to learn more about your home state or a first-timer curious about history, these books are sure to help you enjoy it more.
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Books by Virginia Authors
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
Titled for the town of the same name, Big Stone Gap is a New York Times bestseller turned movie. The Blue Ridge Mountains are the setting for the novel about a spinster named Ave Maria Mulligan that fills her time with friends and books. But one day, the town becomes aware of her secret and the men of the town become interested. It was followed by sequels.
The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant
A fictionalized account of the author’s family, The Wettest County in the World was the basis for the movie Lawless. “The Bondurant Boys” were a gang of moonshine-running brothers that operated in Franklin County (near Roanoke), Virginia during Prohibition.
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, The Known World tells of a black farmer and former slave living in rural Virginia. He is mentored by the county’s most powerful man. The farmer’s estate is up in the air after he dies and his widow is forced to make decisions about her future.
Wish You Well by David Baldacci
The New York Times bestseller from the native Virginian author, Wish You Well is a coming of age story about siblings Lou and Oz after a death in the family. They grew up in New York but were forced to move to rural Virginia to live with their great-grandmother.
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
The controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Confessions of Nat Turner by the author of Sophie’s Choice is a fictional account of the real-life revolutionist Nat Turner. It tells the behind the scenes of a famous slave revolt and the life of Turner before his imprisonment and eventual execution in a Virginia jail.
Fiction Set in Virginia
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
In The Kitchen House, a secret threatens to tear apart a thriving Virginia plantation in the years before the Civil War. Irish orphan Lavinia is sent to America as an indentured servant to work with Belle, the master of the plantation’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia feels torn between the families, fitting in neither with the white plantation owners nor the black slaves.
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
In Postmortem, the first of the Kay Scarpetta series, Richmond medical examiner Scarpetta investigates a grisly series of stranglings leaves the city frozen in fear. But as she digs deeper into the person behind the crimes, the more in danger she is from someone within her department that wants to sabotage her…or worse.
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders is about a woman of the same name who must hustle to survive after becoming a young widow. Eligible men help her get by providing her with money and a place to live. The book takes place between England and Virginia as she travels between them.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Set during the Civil War, The Red Badge of Courage is about Henry, a young Union soldier that flees the battlefield. He wants a “red badge of courage,” or a war wound, as punishment for his going AWOL. The author interviewed war veterans in his research.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The novel Prodigal Summer is the notable author’s fifth book. It weaves together three stories of people living in Appalachia that are dealing with life events like death, divorce, and a changing landscape.
Non-Fiction Set in Virginia
Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk by John Lingan
Set in Winchester, Virginia, Homeplace is about a man who visits in search of the music culture. He meets a local DJ and honky-tonk owner that gave Patsy Cline a platform on the local radio. It’s here that he learns about the intersection of people and perspectives.
Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape by T. Tyler Potterfield
Nonesuch Place tells of the Virginia capital that was purpose-built at the center of the state with access to the Piedmont and Tidewater regions. It discusses the city planning that laid out the city’s neighborhoods and why they matter today.
Madison and Jefferson by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg
In a dual biography about two notable presidents, Madison and Jefferson tells the untold stories from history class. The two lived on neighboring farms in rural Virginia and left a significant mark on American democracy. The book includes information from letters, diaries, and documents.
Guidebooks on Virginia
Moon Virginia by Michaela Riva Gaaserud
The Moon Virginia guide features the brand’s popular layout and photos and includes itineraries for around the state. It also includes a section on Washington DC with emphasis on Colonial Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and the Appalachian Trail.
Weird Virginia: Your Guide to Virginia’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Jeff Bahr, Troy Taylor, and Loren Coleman
Visit the state’s most offbeat landmarks with Weird Virginia. Highlights include the color photos and mentions of attractions like “Foamhenge,” a foam Stonehenge replica. There are also unusual tales of psychics and other mystical beings.
Backroads & Byways of Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions by Bill Lohmann
As the name implies, Backroads and Byways focuses its attention on Old Dominion’s lesser-known destinations and landmarks. It’s broken up into 19 itineraries and drives, including the Crooked Road Music Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the history trail of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg by Michael Olmert and Suzanne E. Coffman
Learn about the attraction from the people of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation with the Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. The guide includes the history of the area, the best way to explore, and areas you can’t miss.
Insiders’ Guide to Richmond, VA by Maureen Egan
Insider’s Guide to Richmond tells of the Virginia capital’s unique neighborhoods, underrated attractions, and incredible restaurants in one easy guide.
We can’t leave out our own book, This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States, which includes Virginia. Purchase your copy today!